What Can We Learn From the Trees?

Eitz Haim Hi? עץ חיים היא

In Jewish tradition, the “Tree of Life,” is a symbol that I feel very strongly tied to, for many reasons. A significant reason is my name Elana, in Hebrew means; “tree” or “oak tree.” Oak trees are mighty, giant trees known for their sacred wisdom, unyielding strength and high morale. Trees for me and for many, represent a higher level of spirit, of transcendence to another power.

What can trees teach us and what does this have to do with setting intentions?

In the Jewish calendar (we follow the moon/lunar cycles); we find ourselves in the month of Shevat, it can be known as a time of “wintering” of deep contemplation. In the American (Gregorian) calendar, we celebrate with “The New Year.” In Shevat, on January 15th, we observe a holiday, “The Celebration of the Trees.” In Jewish text: The great French Rabbi/commentator; Rashi, explains that Tu B’Shvat is when the sap of new life begins to rise in the trees, which leads to the production of new fruit. In other words, even though we can’t see it yet, Tu B’Shvat is when the magic starts.

With the beautiful white, sparkling snow on the ground, days are becoming longer, we’re given permission to slow down and to turn more inward to ourselves. Every year, we’re met with the opportunity to start anew, to renew our spirit, our mind, body and soul.

Trees are the oldest, living breathing giants on Mother Earth, they have been around for nearly thousands and thousands of years. The truth is, we tend to take for granted all that they provide to us. Trees give us the ability to “breathe.” Without them, we would not be able to live on this planet. How miraculous is that? What a gift, what a blessing. How can we not believe in a higher power?

As I continue to strengthen my connection, to Judaism, to the lunar (moon calendar). It is no coincidence that I find myself reflecting and writing about this time. Did you know that every 7 years, we’re in a Shmita; in tradition, if “we were farmers”, we were asked to take a period of rest. A time to take pause, to stop working and to let the land and trees, ultimately and collectively to take a nap.

In 2022, and with the ongoing pandemic, we all are due for a nice, long, and restful time, aren’t we? I don’t know about you but I could use some serious time, a sabbatical even to take space, to take time and actually not have to work the daily grind of working, of living.

In a world where reality is opposite of that; stay busy, keep going, be productive and we continue to live this way…

How can we take small baby steps to take back the practice of Shmita and taking small steps to conserve our energy to move forward in the years that follow?

It is hard to believe that a year ago, I was in the process of leaving things (places, people) that no longer aligned with me and my life. I am sure that others can relate to this. After all, the pandemic helped us see what really matters and what is important to us in our lives.

Hello 2022. As we close out the year of 2021 and move into a new year, I have decided to set intentions (small steps) that hold value for me and that I can bring into 2022. 2021 for many of us and much of the word was challenging to say the least.

As I reflect on 2021, it was a year of uncertainty, of courage, of opportunity and pushing myself more to the person I see myself un-becoming and becoming. Whose wasn’t? It was also a year that I deepened my practice with my spirituality more and more and I was able to un-earth some areas of my creativity that I have been able to really tap into, until now. I am thankful for 2021, it helped me grow, took me to places (directly and in-directly that helped spark my creativity, and helped me to understand myself more deeply (professionally and personally).

2022. As I close my eyes, slow down my breathing and get grounded. I am holding myself to create intentions of what I envision for not only this year but to help me continue to grow in areas that I have been wanting to focus on. Instead of setting new years resolutions that I would like to reach, I am creating a vision for this year. By holding space to think, explore and dig deeper, I believe this statement will help me lean into this year, fully and be more present in my life.

Here is my mantra or intention for this year:

-Cultivate inner growth, strengthen my roots and grow as strong as an “Oak Tree”

-Cultivate by definition means to to me; to prepare, improve or foster something.

-Inner growth by definition means to me; to really get in touch with ourselves, our deep knowing, and learn to understand the divine energy of who we are.

-Action by definition means to me; to fulfill an area and feel an accomplishment by completing a task or milestone.

May this year be a year of laying a stronger foundation and a will to keep going. If I need some inspiration to keep going, I will remember what the trees can teach me/us.

Counting the Omer Within…ME

Here is my reflection on my experience on Counting the Omer, a spiritual practice in Judaism that we observe from Passover to Shavuot

Before diving deeper into “Counting the Omer and what this all means, ” I need to take sometime to reflect how this all came to be and why it has taken me (nearly months later) to build up the courage and energy to write this out.

I know taking the time to do is what I need to do. It is time. I believe others can resonate with this practice and the incredible gift that Judaism can provide if you let it in… I look forward to hearing how this may resonate with you. What have you learned? What have you re-discovered or re-learned?

You see, Judaism (well religion) for that matter tends to be this huge concept that is really hard to grasp, understand and comprehend. As someone who grew up in the reform Jewish movement, going to temple every Sunday for Hebrew school, BBYO and going to events focused on the Jewish community, it always was a place, almost a safe haven that I felt most connected to (aside from ART or Social Work). Whenever, I was having something going on in my life or feeling down, spirituality was always there. Waiting for me, it was not till probably going through the pandemic and everything that has occurred when I have had these low moments that I recognize it and embrace it for all it is and all it has given me. Like any religion, it can feel boring and like there is nothing that we gain from it. I want to take the time to uncover a part of Judaism that I knew about but it’s not till this year that I really dug deeper into what it means to me and the experience I had of “Counting the Omer WITHIN” in a way that was inviting, cool and creative.

Rewind back (from Present day July 5, 2021 to March 2021)

During the month of March, I was really struggling with my mental health and on occasion contemplated why am I even here and what am I doing with my life? I am not sure about you or if you have ever felt this way but if you have, you can understand that even the simple things like feeding yourself, showering, and overall being active is really very, very challenging. Around the same time, I came across The Tasman Center: https://www.tasmancenter.og randomly on social media. My soul was not in a good place, I felt like my “spark for life” was dying out (I just left a pretty emotionally abusive relationship, job and was in a place I didn’t really want to be in (living with my parents at 33 years old back in my childhood home). I needed something to bring out of such a dark place. My faith, I needed it more than ever before so I reached into my spirituality and here is what SHOWED UP!

I remember enrolling for the cohort, Illuminate the Omer and thinking to myself, what else is there to do right now? I had nothing left to do, so I took it ON. I remember having a lot of ideas, re-discovering what brought me that spark, that fire within my soul. One thing was for certain that my inner Artist was crying out to me to reach deep within and begin creating. A voice inside my head said, “Just do it.” It was around the same time, that I randomly came across the app Clubhouse, I heard things about it was pretty apprehensive. As soon as I opened it up, it just so happens that around the same time there was a huge movement of Jews that were utilizing this app and spent hours, even days on it. I didn’t feel like I was really ready to go down that road and I wasn’t even sure what I was searching for but I knew I needed to look more into it. Once I decided to explore it more, I started to find rooms that were intriguing but were lacking what I desired but it . As soon as I put my intention into the universe, world of Clubhouse, I found what I was looking for (my tribe, my community, my home). My energy returned to me, I felt all the vibes and was ready to dive into this world. I remember scrolling on Clubhouse, wondering what all the fuss was about. What was so great about Clubhouse? I decided to try it out, go into different rooms and soon enough, I found the club, “Mystics and Musicians.” I remember it was just like yesterday, it was pretty late in the evening (since I tend to be a night owl it didn’t phase me.) That first conversation is not what drew me in, in fact it was just a few guys and myself talking about psychedelic’s here and there. I wasn’t that interested. However, I did follow the club and receive some type of notification or saw a new room, “Sefirat Ha’Omer.” I wasn’t sure what to think of it but I remember at some point, joining the room.

The room started off as a smaller crowd, less than 20 and around 10 and was made up of quite the eclectic crowd. A few to name; An almost Cantor at JTS, a song leader in the BBYO/Reform movement, tarot/kabbalah/crystal folk, chakra/mystics/educators/rabbis/musicians/healers/seekers/dreamers and all the things. For the next 8 weeks Passover-Shavuot, we would be Counting the Omer. The Omer means, a sheaf of corn or omer of grain presented as an offering on the second day of Passover. How the heck can we even relate to this and what does this even mean? How can we make sense of this? The practice of counting the omer was no stranger to me, I remember years and years ago back in 2014, I was in a similar place in my life but also not. Much has changed and much reminds me of the same familiar feeling. Here is an old blog entry: https://wordpress.com/post/modehaniandeverythinginbetween.wordpress.com/81

So here I was, it was April 2021. I chose to let this room in and contribute to it. Here’s how it went: every night at 10 PM (EST) we joined the Clubhouse room. In the beginning, Aydin and Jacob led us in the prayer of Counting the Omer, and recited the following prayer in Song:

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’Olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tizivanu al sefirat ha’omer.

Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments and commanded us to count the omer. To find out more information, check out: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/blessing-for-counting-the-omer/

Every single night at 10 PM EST was unique (no night was the same, which is what made is to special). In the earlier weeks/days, we sang along (without mics on) pulled up on stage and reflected what the day meant to us. See each day, brought new meaning, new life. For 49 days, we intentionally took time to slow down, to reflect and share the most vulnerable part of ourselves. Since we couldn’t physically “see” each other, maybe we felt more comfortable to share the darkest parts of ourselves and parts that brought us joy but the day-to-day mundane life didn’t give us room or overall space to grow in this sense? During this time, I started drawing again. As soon as I picked up my prismacolor colored pencils, a part of my soul came ALIVE again. I was where I needed to be and I needed to lean into it and let it IN. I’ve been here before, I’ve counted before but this was different, it was not trying to be something different, I was stepping into my authentic, true self and it began to shine and shine ever so brightly in the images I created.

I entered into Clubhouse, into the room and was transported into “another world” of sparks, deep spirituality, connection and awe. I was in my element and I was HOME. I remember there were times I was so overwhelmed with my life and the 9-5 life, that there was certainly times that I just wanted to isolate, to shut it all down and stop creating. How is it that the one thing that brings me to life, I was willing to let it go and stop it all together? I am not sure and know I need to reflect more on this but I am glad that I was able to pull myself out of the rut I was in and continue to create. In the weeks that followed, there were times I just wanted to give up and be done. See here is the thing with counting the omer, you can’t just stop (it’s the same as being human and continuing to work on ourselves, we can’t ever just stop). If we do, we die and out soul dies more. So here I was spending hours and hours at a time, pouring into my art and into creating. It was pretty incredible to see what happened when I let it ALL in. I was able to create this majestic piece of art and I know this I not the end, this is simply the beginning.

In the beginning, it was pretty basic, comfortable. Towards, the end it grew almost outside of itself. It became a practice, it became a HOME for me when I did not feel at home in myself (emotionally/spiritually and in my soul/body/mind). Like LIFE, should and has the power to do. but only, if we let it in, and cultivate the energy it needs to grow, flourish and thrive.

Here are all 49 drawings from my Counting of the Omer WITHIN:

Helper + Adventurer

It has been months since I have sat down and even wrote a sentence. It already feels good. Why do I stop things that help me to deal with my emotions and make me feel HUMAN…

All the Systems…so broken, disconnected, so little time…and so much to do

I wrote this several months ago and now giving myself permission to share it.

Systems broken…..more apparent than ever before (CO-Vid 19) March 2020 when the world started to wake up and people started open their eyes

Let’s bring it back to 2007 (when this all kinda began): Originally an Art Education major. I was excited and eager to grow as an Artist. End of Sophomore year,  I was craving something to give me that SPARK.  Something was missing and art wasn’t doing what it used to do for me. I was spending much of my time, with all-nighters and staying up to get drawing assignments done. I was stressed. I was depressed. I was searching for something.

During a low-ish, uncertain time in my life. I stumbled upon an Alternative Spring Break trip with EMU Hillel to help build houses and give families who survived Hurricane Katrina (a place to call their own). A home.

Little did I know, there were programs that youth could participate in, to gain real world experience and make a difference in the world. I guess I would try it, I told myself and at least I’d meet cool people, right?!

When we first arrived to Overtown Miami, FL: it more or less was another world. My eyes opened.

Here are some throwback pictures to make it real and Ohhh the Nostalgia!

ASB 11ASB 1ASB 2ASB 3ASB 9ASB 8ASB 7ASB 6ASB 10ASB 4ASB 5

Growing up, I grew up in the suburbs of Metro Detroit area. I never had to worry about when I would eat, if there was enough food. I never had to worry about if I would be cold or too warm due to heating or cooling issues. I never had to worry about the clothing I wore or if my clothes would be clean or not. I grew up with a lot or privilege and this is not bashing my childhood whatsoever, it is painting a picture of the reality I faced and how involved and active I have become over the years.

Ever since I joined the field of Social Work and chose to dedicate my time + energy to helping others. I have noticed similar observations and patterns in every position I have been in thus far.

Wrap-around Services: 

Coordinating Care: What’s that? 

Case Management:

Time:

In order for someone to find resources, they must be skilled, Outreach is #1

Human Services/Social Services/Nonprofits: Is comprised of a large network of trained professionals

Trusting the Divine + Within (ELUL Part 1)

How can we love ourselves?

Let go- Frou Frou

What does it mean to fully TRUST the universe?

How can we when things are without our control?

What can we control?

Looking at the Jewish calendar, we’re in this time called, “Elul,” it can be recognized by referencing, Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me” (Song of Songs 6:3). Elul can be seen to hold space in those we hold most dearly; our relationships with ourselves, with those we love, animals we care for and the divine.

The Trees, The Leaves: What can they teach us?

In MI, the colors change from green to red, to orange, to yellow and a mixure of sorts. The air changes, the pace of life shifts to a more “chill and introspective state” For me, this time of year is my absolute favorite. I feel a shift happen across my body; in my mind, spirit, deep in my bones and heart. I am ready to shed the past, I am ready to trust, I am ready to LET GO of control and trust.

In CO, it can be different but I see it as a truly magical and divine blessing. (2016) Kenosha Pass: As I hike into the trailhead, dark, lush pine trees are seen guarding the aspens. I meet my beloved “fields of gold” and my beloved whispers in my ear; strength, determination and ease.

Here is a poem mash-up I am trying after attending this workshop this morning on Creativity and Grief (it was beyond powerful):

A Re-Telling Poem:

When we’re mandated to wear shields to protect ourselves and strangers from the invisible virus

We’ll remember how good it feels to see a reassuring smile, crooked and all

When trees are gasping for air with wildfire ash raging through their lungs

We’ll embrace every drop and jump through all the puddles

When the sun is a red orange color and the sky smells like a campfire

We’ll snuggle under the stars in our tents on a clear beautiful and chill night

When young black lives continue to be just a hashtag and an IG story

We’ll inspire, educate and show youth that their life is for a blessing

When Mother Earth is telling us “enough is enough”

We’ll plant seeds of hope that build the strongest and mightiest oak trees

When we are not able to have a lively, upbeat red rocks summer

We’ll cheer on our favorite musicians releasing their best records yet from zoom screens to IG

When the world is hibernating in an uncertain slumber for nearly half a year

We’ll fill our bellies with butterflies of hope, unity and love

When our nation is hanging by an invisible string of justice, in the face of hate

We’ll knit a masterpiece from every corner of the world to every lake, mountain top, and sea to shining sea

Tishrei

New Orleans Funeral March Poem:

The gathering of community under a white tent, a haven, a sacred place

The voices of children shouting, and crying fills the room with a thousand trumpets

The gentle touch of a friendly face, the love that fills our bellies and smiles that hurt our face

It is time. It is Elul.

Burying the past, looking toward the future

The angelic voices singing more light into

Parading across the bima, we hear the call of the shofar

torah scrolls

(to be continued)…

What can Av teach us?

Disclaimer: I am no religious expert, these are just my thoughts…and I hope this brings a different perspective + overall creates more dialogue around this concept.

Today is August 1st, our country is on fire, more and more people are dying because of COVID-19; a virus that is making us question everything: How did we get here? What can we do? How do we survive?

This is real, yes, we’re still living in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC..

When looking at the world and my place in it, I find some comfort and solace knowing that I am not alone. We’re not alone. As a Jewish American womxn, I have always wrestled with a part of my identity that sometimes is hard to admit. I am a Jew.

While the world is in a very uncertain, eerie, dark and unsettling place. The Jewish calendar opens our EYES to more than we were ever taught in Hebrew School (at least for me) and I can’t help but wonder: How do we mourn for this new way of living? What can we learn? How can we move forward? What can Av Teach Us?

As Jews, we follow a Lunarsolar Calendar. What does this mean? It means, we follow the Moon so we’re technically in two different universes, right? I like to think so. Again, no expert but this is quite interesting, isn’t it? The month of July-August is known as “Av” This month is supposedly all about mourning the great destruction of two major temples in Jerusalem. Not relatable? Exactly…same here.

The way I see it:

Jews from around the world are observing “Tisha B’v” July 29th-30th was the SADDEST day of the year. To show that we’re in solidarity, to mourn for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem…we’re called to fast from sundown-sundown. So basically we’re given permission to mourn?

What are we mourning in present day?

Not being able to see close friends, loved ones and family the way we usually do. Now we’re required to socially distance ourselves, stand 6 feet apart at least and wear a mask at all times except when eating or drinking. Social gatherings more than 10 are prohibited, concerts and live music aren’t happening and the beloved vibrant and lively Red Rocks is empty. Complete silence.

It is quite an eerie place right now and probably will continue to be until we have a new leader running America again, have a vaccine and numbers have dropped. Basically, to fill out days and out times, majority of us (those who are able to do so and are privileged to have this) spend time at home, watching shows/movies, cuddling our animals. For me, I have watched House of Cards completely through, other shows, documentaries and discovered how weird and also freeing it is take time to slow down and take space to think, to grow and mourn. In addition, Zoom is our new way of connecting with others and we can meet people who don’t even live in America; which is pretty incredible.

What systems have been broken/shifted + will never be the same?

Social Services/Community Orgs/Mental Health: As someone who has worked in the field of social work with a focus on community organizations and social systems, I have had the pleasure, joy and really great privilege of being able to learn, to grow into who I am today and to DO MORE for the greater good of humanity.

Just like anything, when we aren’t living, breathing and doing this kinda work, we sometimes sweep it under the rug. America, teaches us instead of fixing the problems, a band-aid will do.

During the Global Pandemic, it’s becoming more clear that we are in a state of pure and utter insanity. One of my favorite musicians, Nahko and Medicine for the People came out with a new album called Take Your Power Back. “Dear Brother” is one that we all should be listening to and paying attention to. Give it a listen.

The American Dream:

At a young age, we learn about the founding principles of our country, who our founding fathers are and how important it is to get a good education, to work hard to work our way up to make more $, enjoy the fruits of our labor, turn a blind eye and very often just brush off our shoulders, the hate, the injustice that is always under the rug.

Now: Innocent lives are being taken from this awful virus. We still don’t know what caused it and how this happened. We do know, that there are MAJOR ISSUES that we have never fixed in the first place! The truth is, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. The 1% are profiting from billions and billions of dollars.

ALL our EYES to the reality of our country. Now, because of the pandemic and the unfortunate increase of deaths of in particular black, brown, indigenous, persons of color. We’re seeing a clear distinction on how BROKEN, how SEGREGATED we really are.

What silver lining can we see and what lessons can we learn from all of this?

Unfortunately, the virus is unpredictable (it does not discriminate and it can lead to death, which we have seen; numbers are sky-rocketing more and more.

What Can Av Teach us?

If anything, Av can show us the importance of taking the time to slow down, to close our eyes and be here now. It can teach us how important is it to embrace everyday, every moment, every breath. To let go of the life we knew, to grieve and cry because life as we know it will never be the same and that’s okay.

Earth Day + The Power of Organizing

Today is the 50th Anniversary of EARTH Day….what does this even mean…fifty years…where will be in fifty more years? Where will we be in a few years? In a year? Where will we be? What will our Earth look like? Will we have listened to her..have we actually woken up?

I don’t know about you but I am pretty sad and depressed about where our world is now and how this whole covid-19 thing kinda had to happen for us to WAKE UP! However,  I could wallow and feel useless or I could take this time to reflect, to show appreciation to the experience I have had thus far and a lot of it has to do with the Power of Organizing and the Earth.  I do think that we all can do our part, what will you do?

If not now, when?

Also, I wanted to share this beautiful and timely song my favorite musician and band released today (ironically, I became interested and so connected randomly during my time with NEC and saw him first in 2016 during the Up To Us Tour (Boulder Theatre) in 2016 with Shailene Woodley, Trevor Hall and so many other incredible artists. It was definitely fate, enjoy!

http://www.wondercamp.co/dear-humanity

Ever since I was young, I have been a nature lover. I spent much of my childhood at a sleep-away camp in Charlevoix, MI called Camp Sea-Gull. While there, I was privileged to have a safe-haven and beautiful place to call home every summer. I learned how to backpack, took some really cool trips around Michigan and Canada area and found my love for nature even more so.

Fast forward years later, when I got involved and took a step into this wild world of social work. 2016, I was lost, I was not sure where my life was going. I was sick of the same old stuff and was looking for “wide-open spaces.” I was ready for change. I wanted to do more, I wanted to make a larger impact. So I applied to jobs and came across one in particular; working as a  Field Organizer with New Era Colorado NEC for registering voters across the state in the 2016 Election. Around the same time, I decided why not move to Colorado, nothing to lose.

So I picked up everything and made the move to CO.  I was excited, I was ready. A few weeks later, I had a few interview with NEC; video and in person. A few weeks later, I was on-boarded on to the team “Delta Force.” I met my team-mates, we learned the ins and outs of what we were going to do, how we were going to do it and what this all meant.  We learned about the issues affecting the state and being so new to CO, it helped me become educate myself on state level and locally, what actions we can take (many regarding climate crisis issues).  Shout-out to Delta Force!

For 9 months myself and the team, went across the state with our clipboards, pens and VR forms. There were days I had multiple shifts where I was charged to approach strangers and ask them, “Hi, how’s it going…are you registered to vote where you live right now?”  I remember during this time, I was exhilarated, my body was alive and my spark was alive. I also had some fears, “Could I keep up with the pace, am I cut out enough to do this, can I really do this?” I learned how to step outside my comfort zone even more, get more  + more comfortable speaking to strangers. Speaking to folx from all walks of life, all economic backgrounds, those that are homeless, disenfranchised, LGBTQ and everything else. Majority of the time, folx were interested in speaking with me. We had a great conversation and I got a number of VR forms filled out to get them registered to vote. Other times, it was disheartening and some people had no interest whatsoever or bashed the candidates. Some days were pretty tough, exhausting but you know what nothing comes easy from not taking the work we need to. 

You know what’s even harder, not speaking up. Not being a part of this beyond important time in HUMANITY. Voting and having the “access and ability” to VOTE is nothing to be taken lightly. We see those that are oppressed across the board, $ is not allocated enough to nonprofits and movements that can make some serious change. The most important thing we can do right now is speak up, to find our VOICE, become leaders, build movement and continue to lift those that are not part of the conversation.

Now in 2020 (big year for the election) it’s crazy how much I have grown from this experience. I will never forget and wanted to take some time to reflect and show gratitude for now only mother earth, being able to use my voice for the voiceless for those in the shadows and how this kind of work will literally be our saving grace, and for humanity.

The entire experience was beyond eye-opening, and I will never ever be the same. I am not sure when I will become back involved, what this will look like but I know at some point probably sooner than later, I will lace up my converse (maybe comfier shoes) I will knock on those doors, I will talk to everyone that comes in my path about the power of organizing and how this has completely changed my life for the better.  If you want to continue this conversation, please reach out to me. I am ready when you are.

Please take some time to check out NEC and consider donating, getting involved. If you have any Q’s, please lemme know! neweracolorado.org

 

BE HUMAN

As the WHOLE WIDE WORLD is in utter panic, isolation, lock down, complete uncertainty. I felt like this was good time of any, to start blogging again. Plus, I want something to refer back to and remember what this time was like. So here it goes…

About a week ago, there were reports that this thing called COVID-19 (a respiratory virus; worse than anything we have seen in 100+ years) was circling the globe. At first, I didn’t think much of it. I scheduled dates to look forward to and was planning on going to the mountains for spring break. I went about my day. The world moved on.

Fast forward to today, a lot has changed. In CO and much across the country, we’re not able to physically see each-other. This means, no going out to bars or restaurants, no meeting new people for dates, no gym, no hot yoga, no getting our hair or nails done. nothing. Thankfully, we can still go out for essential items like medicine, food, etc.

In addition, all schools are CLOSED until April 17 (many folx are saying it will be longer). The school I work at is in a very unique position, we’re already primarily online so adjusting to student needs is already in place. Since it’s spring break and we have now been told that it is extended to March 27th.

How do I spend my days and my time you ask? Currently, I am on FB a lot. I know it’s not great to be on social media so much but since I am not able to be physically distant with other people…this is what will become the “new normal.” Thankfully, I randomly joined a FB group and have since taken on some admin type role within it.

The group was started on March 12th. It was started by two awesome ladies when they felt like they wanted to do more with everything shutting down and knew people needed help. They were so right, the group is at 6K and growing by the minute.  It really is incredible and beautiful to connect with people that I may have never connected with before. The universe shifts, creating opportunities like this.  Technology is a big thing that is saving us all. It is giving us access to communicate virtually without every meeting anyone in person, perfect strangers.

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/facebook-page-helps-connect-denver-metro-area-strangers-with-help-during-covid-19-crisis

We’re truly in such a weird, strange time but this is something worth sharing. I want to take a moment for gratitude and for having this moment.

Some take-aways: We need to give ourselves permission to SLOW DOWN. I am trying to learn how to be okay with taking breaks, with taking days off to cry or hibernate. To feel weird. To feel tired. To feel depressed. To feel isolated. To LEAN IN to uncertainty. To the unknown. To also remember this is temporary. To remember. We are all going through this. Also, music is everything. I have been listening to the usual jams: Trevor Hall, Mikey Pauker, Nahko and Medicine for the People, super chill/spiritual songs.

NAHKO, medicine. The whole NEW album and his older stuff is always very healing for me.

Trevor Hall, more medicine

Mikey Pauker, give him a listen (it’s quite healing) more medicine…

Dan Nichols to bring us into S h a b b a t

Until next time, BE HUMAN. Shabbat Shalom.

Screenshot for memories:

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Here’s some Q’s I am going to post to REFLECT on, perhaps it will inspire you do the same90064237_3186967947982217_3880601611629756416_n

Mountain Medicine

Habibi. Shalom. Hello!

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For a few weeks, months now, I have been itching to go the mountains. This time of year, no matter where you are the holidays became busier, more stressful and if you are alone, it becomes increasingly more difficult to feel good. Lately, I have been focusing more on my mental health, maybe the sun helps, maybe I am settling into my life here in Colorado. Whatever it is, it feels really good and I couldn’t be happier or more excited to share this post with you. Maybe, it will get me the spark to re-start my blog.

About a week ago, my friend Leah and I talked about going hiking. She reached out to me and expressed that her, her bf and two men from Africa were maybe going to join us.

Going into this, I wasn’t too sure what it would be like or if I’d even go. After all, I went to bed around 230 and woke up around 700. Needless to say, I was feeling tired, and just wanted to lay in bed all day. I mean who doesn’t?

In this life. We all have a choice. Opportunity really is not a lengthy visitor and we must take every opportunity we get.

On the weekend. I had a choice. I had an opportunity. Like many of us do. I could stay in bed, watching shows and lounging around, nursing my hangover (OR) I could go out in nature, I could meet new people and I could get some free therapy in the mountain air.  I knew if I chose the first option, I would regret it. I usually do. I chose to suck it up, to commit.  These days, it is so easy to be a non-committal person.

On FB, we now have the option of saying “Interested, Going, Not going or Not Interested. In a world where we have so many options of what to do. Who to see. Who to date. What to eat. What to wear. What kind of job we want. I like so many of us, are guilty of this, it’s not our faults individually, its the culture that we have grown up in. But guess what, we all have a CHOICE. It’s Up to US!

Committing to YES:

700 AM Alarm Goes Off

705 Snooze

710ish Finally get up

730-800 Rush to get my ISH together

815-Picked up to go hiking to Rocky Mountain National Park

815-1030 We drive to the Rockies

1030-430 PM

The morning air is crisp, the sun is shining and we’re making our way to the Rockies. We stop at Peet’s Coffee. We have some good sweets (Croissants, Blueberry Muffin) coffee and tea. Wanting to nap but also beyond ready to get out and hike.  We listen to some jams, talk and learn a little about each other.

Some Background: 

Leah and Jonathan are together and pretty adorable! I recently became friends with Leah through the Jewish community and I know Jonathan from it as well.  Before this day, I didn’t know them super well but after I feel a lot closer to knowing who they are. Like how they have traveled and know Spanish and are full of energy and light.

Jonathan works at Anschutz Medical Center and became connected with Joshua and Aladdin, two men from Africa.  Joshua has been here for a few weeks, he is a Nurse Practitioner and is here on a work visa to learn as much as he can to bring back with him to Cameroon. He tells me about the wars over there, all the violence happening. He tells me he will send me videos so I can learn more. He says he wants to stay in the US and is trying to make that happen. Aladdin (Alaaeddin M. Elzubeir, PhD)  is here for a whole year, he is a Fullbright Scholar and his focus is Pediatric Hematolgic Genetic Disorders. He loves children and is very knowledgeable about the body. He is married and he shows us pictures of the Blue Nile River, truly gorgeous.

I am told these are not very close in proximity and they did not know each other before coming to Colorado. I am from Michigan. Leah is from Colorado Springs and Jonathan is from Florida. So none of us are from the same place but it felt like we were, at that exact moment. Pretty cool!

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Google Earth Map of Aladdin’s village: The brown part is the Blue Nile River

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Joshua is Christian and follows Christianity. Aladdin (Yes, his name is Aladdin, pronounced Aladdin, is Muslim and practices Islam. Leah, Jon and myself follow the Jewish faith. Even if we may pray to a different G-d or higher being or whatever it is we believe in.

I like to think that we all share a lot in common, we all are seeking connection, belonging and adventure. I mean aren’t we all?

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Left to Right: Jonathan, Leah, Aladdin, Me, Joshua

The day:

It was pretty chilly. We stopped at Beaver Creek Visitor Center. We were told to go check out Cubs Lake Trail. After turning around a few times to find the road to take us there, we made it. We bundled up, we layered up and we went up into the mountains. Jonathan brought some extra clothing for our two new friends: Joshua and Aladdin to wear. After all, they have never EVER seen SNOW in their lives. Or worn a scarf before!

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Joshua and Aladdin 

Taking our first steps as a group was thrilling. The hike up to the lake was gorgeous. When we approached the lake, it was partly covered in ice. Our wonderful hosts: Leah and Jon prepared a scrumptious picnic: We had some delicious black and spicy Good Earth tea, apples and peanut butter, black beans with garlic/chilis, sandwiches with turkey, celery, tomatoes and taco bell sauce YUM! We prayed with each other, we laughed and we shared this beautiful day. It didn’t matter what race, what culture we were. All that mattered was the CONNECTION we created on that special, magnificent day.

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The weather was absolutely perfect. The sun was sunny as ever. The sky was bluer-than blue. The wind has a nice hush. The exchanges we had were exhilarating, fresh, new, and really truly magical. We prayed. We ate. We learned. We connected. We laughed. We  meditated. We cried. We belonged. We became اصدقاء : Asdigaa: friends. and we saw freaking moose and carcasses. I mean how much better, can it get?!

We spent hours in the Rockies. Time went by slow but yet so fast at the same time.

We had an all American meal at good ol Wendy’s. The fries, the siracha sauce, the chicken, the cocoa-cola pop, it all was so refreshing and tasted so good.

CONNECTION.

We are human beings. We are programmed to gravitate towards one another. We gravitate to what and who is familiar. For me, I have always enjoyed meeting perfect strangers. I find it a kind of rush, a kind of high, a thrill. Maybe, that’s why I became a Social Worker, why I chose this path (OR) how it chose me. Being out in Colorado, in wide open spaces, I am realizing more that I am happiest when I am out in nature. Being surrounded around trees. It gives me comfort. It gives me hope.

So I ask you how will you say YES? What is holding you back from experiencing moments like this and how can we create more of these?

Words from Aladdin that sum up this moment:

The fairy tale will begin when the snow falls … Heartbeats increase..
You look up, and your face will be falling and immediately melting snowflakes.!!

You will smile and rejoice, because it is in winter you want to believe in miracles.!

It is at this time of year that you make a wish for the new year and hope that the fairy tale will begin right now , with you guys.

Love you all❤ “Aladdin”

I just keep smiling all the time when I remember those moments I spent with you guys.😊

It’s truly moments like this that take your breath away.

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#Blessed #MountainMedicine

blessings مُبارك : mubark

peace : السّلام : assalam

&

To many more adventures and saying YES!

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Rocky Mountain High- John Denver

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door
When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song
But the string’s already broken and he doesn’t really care
It keeps changing fast and it don’t last for long
But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)
He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory
Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake
And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high
Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land
And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high
It’s Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Rocky mountain high
Modeh Ani ( מודה אני‎; “I give thanks”)